The third of the hilltop forts that guard Jaipur, and in a state of majestic ruin, it has some lovely gardens and pavilions added after the capital had shifted to Jaipur. The members of the royal family often used it for summer excursions and picnics.
As may be expected, the City Palace complex lies at the heart of the city. Getting in is simpler than it once was. Though the erstwhile maharaja and his family and close friends use the triple-arched Tripolia Gate to enter their section of the palace, most visitors are ushered in through Atish Pol which is located close to the royal stables, cross from here to Chandni Chowk or Moonlit Square and then on to Gainda ki Deorhi. At the heart of the complex is seven-tiered Chandra Mahal where the erstwhile royal family is still in residence, though only a small part of the apartments are occupied.
However, it is only the buildings around Chandra Mahal that are open to the public, and these also form part of a museum which includes everything from Grand outfits (including one with 18 kilos of golden thread woven into it) to swords and two silver urns that are believed to be the largest silver objects in the world. These are housed in the Mubarak Mahal, and the Diwan-i-am respectively. Through Singh Pol, visitors can approach the Diwan-i-am, where the maharaja’s private and public courts would be held. The architecture seems to consist of a number of arched, pillared halls, while courtyards with painted doorways are prominent feature.
A stone observatory, part of the city palace complex, Jantar Mantar is one of several other astronomical observatories created by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh 2nd (other are in Delhi, Banaras, Ujjain). These concrete masonry instruments were used to measure everything from altitude to time, and map the movement of the planets and the stars. Jai Singh 2nd had a passion for astronomy and used astronomical inventions from different of these observatories, the largest of which in is Jaipur.
Located to one side, but a part of the City Palace complex, Hawa Mahal is best viewed from the street outside. If is were not for the bustling bazaar all around, it would have been easy to mistake it for a film set, so exquisitely is it proportioned, and so incongruous is its delicacy.
Hawa Mahal consists of five tiers of corridors on the inside, with pierced screen windows that overlook the street below. It is believed the women of the royal zenana would sit concealed behind these screens to see life in the city beyond the walls of the palace.
Jal Mahal was built by Sawai Pratap Singh in 1799 AD in the midst of the Man Sagar Lake as a pleasure spot. The was formed by constructing dam between the two hills by Sawai Man Singh I. During winter months once can see a large number of migratory as well as residents birds at the lake.
The Kachhawahas ruled form Amber, 11 km from Jaipur, for seven centuries. With a history so old, it is not unexpected that there is a lot of the past that can be traced in its archaeological history. While many of the very early structures have either disappeared or been ruined, those dating from the 16th century on are in a remarkable state of preservation. Amber as it exists now is the handiwork of three of the kingdom’s rulers that include Man Singh and Jai Singh I and II. Approached from a steep ramp, visitors ride up on elephant back, entering through the grand Singh Pol gateway and continuing to Jaleb Chowk, the courtyard where they disembark from the pachyderm. From here, they are faced with two flight of steps, one leading to the Shila Mata complex with its enshrined image of the goddess, and the other to the main palace complex. Within the complex, Ganesh Pol, an imposing gateway painted with images of the elephant-headed God, Lord Ganesha, takes pride of place. Also a part of the complex is the Diwan-I-Am or hall of public audience with its spectacular display of pillars. The typical merging of Rajput and Mughal architectural styles is captured in the Sukh Niwas and Jas Mandir Apartments, and the Charbagh garden with its perfectly proportioned landscaping. A highlight is the pierced screen windows which offer views from points of vantage, as well as the shimmering mirrors encrusting the wall of the Sheesh Mahal. Several other gardens and pavilions within the sprawling spread of the ramparts offer enough scope for investigating medieval lifestyles at leisure. Beyond the ramparts, the old city, once the abode of the aristocracy, has a wonderfully medieval flavour, though it has few buildings of majestic proportion that are still extinct. However, a walk though the rambling lanes will reap rich reward for the curious. Besides a large number of temples, there are also stepwells, memorials and townhouses.